The Five of Us, Spring 2014

The Five of Us, Spring 2014

A Love Story (in honor of Valentine's Day)

It all began over a game of Scrabble at the end of September 1999. I had recently moved to Boise to be Associate Staff/Director of Discipleship of a college campus ministry called Chi Alpha. I was living with a married couple who had come with the ministry's director in '97 as part of the "pioneering team" to help get the ministry started. One night, another member of the team came over and the four of us hung out. At some point, we started playing Scrabble. I LOVE board games (as long as they don't require high-level strategies) and am accustomed to winning word games. I was doing quite nicely until Aaron made a killer play and ousted me by just a few points. Maybe it was the competition, maybe it was because we were two singles hanging out with a newly-wed couple, maybe it God. All I know is that sparks were flying between the two of us and it was the first time in my life I knew what was meant by the word "chemistry."


Aaron had just broken up with his long-time girlfriend and I had no friends in town yet, so we wound up hanging around together, usually with other people, quite a bit. Shortly after the Scrabble game, I called my good friend and begged for advice, saying, "There's all this crazy chemistry, but I could never marry him. We're too much alike!" My "husband list" was comprised of qualities opposite of mine. I thought, if he's very outgoing and likes large gatherings, I can just ride his coattails in these uncomfortable situations. If he is good at sharing his faith--great! Then he can win them and I can disciple them! Aaron, however, was very like me--preferring small gatherings over big parties and teaching/discipling over evangelism. My friend's response to my whining was that I was acting as blind as Anne of Green Gables when it came to Gilbert! If I'd found a good man, why was I fighting it so hard?


Well, over the next few months, Aaron and I had some probing conversations. It turned out we were both looking for someone outgoing and evangelistic to balance out our weaknesses. And, of course, he was looking for a small, petite princess and me for a big, tall hero! It was readily apparent that we are nearly the same size; so, of course, it wouldn't work. So, while Aaron was rapidly becoming my best friend--and there was all that chemistry!--I was able to rationalize that we were just friends and I'd be making others soon.


When Christmas came, I stayed in Boise, although my family all live in and near Chicago because by that time I was living with a quadriplegic woman who needed my assistance. Aaron also stayed in Boise and his parents and sister came to see him. When they discovered I had no Christmas dinner plans, they hastily invited me to join them. I was delighted, a bit overly so for someone who was convincing herself she was just friends with this guy. I remember Aaron and I flirted the entire time! I really should ask his parents and sister what they thought after that dinner!


In early February, my gram passed away. My family made arrangements for her funeral to take place the next day and I was very upset that I wasn't able to get back. As soon as I heard the news, I called Aaron. It was late already (9 or 10 PM), but he hurried over and sat with me as I talked and wept. I was also silently praying, "Lord, if it's okay with you for him to hold me, please make him say these exact words, so I'll know it's you: 'Would it help if I held you?'" As time ticked and the tears rolled, Aaron made several similar suggestions, but it was past midnight when he finally said "Would it help if I held you?" About an hour later, he said he really had to go. He had to work the next day, but he'd call me as soon as he could.


And, he did. We decided to rent a movie and watch it together at his house. Unfortunately, it wasn't over by 10, which was the time I needed to be home for my housemate. We popped it out and took it back to my place to watch the ending. After it was over, Aaron said, "We need to talk." What happened next is a little uncertain. What I heard him say was that what happened the night before (holding me) was a one-time event because I was grieving. It wouldn't happen again because we were just friends and we really needed to start acting like it. No more acting like we're dating, because we're not.


Valentine's Day was just around the corner and at the end of that week, the men of Chi Alpha would be hosting the ladies at the Annual Valentine's Banquet, an opportunity for the men to affirm the women's beauty and femininity in a non-threatening, non-romantic way. I was very excited about getting to dress up and found a gorgeous gown for a good price. It made me feel like Audrey Hepburn. I told Aaron that I'd bought it, but that he'd have to wait until the banquet to see it. He said, "I can't wait to see you in it!" I thought that was a singularly odd thing for him to say, considering the conversation we'd just had, but I let it pass.


The night of the banquet came and I was excited and feeling pretty. When I arrived at the hall, Aaron found me almost immediately and gave me a card. Since he'd interrupted a conversation I was having, I accepted the card without opening it. He seemed regretful to leave my side to conduct his duties and was back again shortly asking whether I'd read the card yet. No, I was enjoying talking with the ladies. I told him that if he would entertain them for a moment, I would excuse myself from the conversation to read his card. It was Valentinesy with roses and pretty script, but the verse was pretty mild, nothing about love or romance. He'd included a note of his own that said, in part, "Thank you for being a good friend and companion." Hmmm, I thought, 'friend and companion'--apparently I did understand him correctly, but then why is he behaving so oddly?


He drove me home that night and talked about how beautiful I'd been and that he liked the dress. We chatted about various things late into the night and enjoyed one another's company. As friends. The next morning, after church, he asked what I'd planned for lunch. Nothing really, so I went with him to his house. While we were eating, we chanced to smile at each other since conversation was impeded by all the chewing and swallowing. I was shocked and puzzled when he said, "Aw, we're gross!" Gross! What?! Did I have food stuck in my teeth? What could possibly be gross? "What do you mean?" I stammered. "I mean, you know when you're out at the mall or a restaurant or something, and other couples smile that smile at each other? It's gross." OTHER COUPLES? What does that mean--does that mean WE'RE a couple? When did we become a couple? "Uh, yeah. What do you mean 'other couples'? Are we a couple now?" Much to my surprise, he told me he was going skiing that afternoon and would think about how to phrase it and define it while alone on the slopes.


Boy, was I confused! I had no idea what the boy was thinking and what was going on! All I knew was that we were looking for matches who were opposite to our weaknesses (and sizes!) and that not a week ago, we'd agreed to be just friends! The whole afternoon, I hemmed and hawed and puzzled over all of this and couldn't wait for him to come and explain it all to me.


Finally, he showed up and we sat down. He said, "I think the best way to define it is that we are best friends." Ah, okay. So, apparently he was a little confused this past week, but he's landed in the safe and established territory of friends. This is good. The conversation was, of course, a little longer than that, but that was the gist of it.


The next day, I met with the Chi Alpha Director and he asked about me and Aaron. I told him that it'd been a confusing week, but that I thought we'd finally settled it out that we were best friends and I was good with that. He probed about dating and whether I thought I could marry Aaron. I told him that we'd talked about what we were looking for in spouses and it didn't really match up, but that I really liked Aaron and there was this chemistry, but that it was probably better this way. He seemed a little disappointed in my answer and said he'd be sure to clear things up with Aaron too.


Later that afternoon, Aaron called. He had talked to Nino (the director) and felt like we needed to talk more, that he needed to do a better job defining the relationship. "I think the best way to put it is that we are best friends (yeah, I got that part the last time...), seeking God as to whether we should be married." WHAT?!!!!! MARRIED??!!!!!! I almost fell out of my chair! "Where did this come from?! I thought we just decided to be friends! And what about all that talk about needing someone to fill up our weaknesses and us being too much alike! MARRIED?!!!"


I think he was taken aback a little by my extreme reaction. You see, that night after my gram died, when we watched the movie...well, he'd intended to convey something more like this: "What happened last night, that was just a one-time thing because you were grieving. However, I think it's about time we own up to what we and everyone who sees us already knows. We're acting like we're dating--we might as well call it like it is." Now, over the phone, he responded by saying, "Yeah, I've been thinking a lot about that opposites thing over the last couple of months. And, what I came to figure out was that it's actually probably a good thing to be with someone who enjoys the same things you do. It's easier to partner in ministry and to live peaceably together. I mean, can you imagine preferring to get together in small dinner parties, but your spouse always wants to go to big parties? One of you would always be uncomfortable in social settings. And, you know, there's that verse that says, 'How can two walk together unless they agree?' (Amos 3:3) I think if you're going to marry someone, you both should probably be going the same direction, right?"


Okay, well this did make sense. And, it wasn't like he meant to marry me right away. And, there was all that chemistry! So, I agreed that we could be "best friends seeking God as to whether we should be married." Of course, we called this relationship "dating" to everyone else. In that phone call, we also established the ground rules of what BFSGATWWSBM would be--no touching (no hand holding, kissing, arms around each other, etc, but short hugs were acceptable), no romantic talk (minimal compliments, no "our future" talk, no "I love you"); the point was to truly get to know each other and to be listening to God above all else without feeding the "blinding" aspects of love.


A month later he was on a plane to Montpellier, France on a 3-month assignment from work. This certainly helped us keep the physical boundaries we'd set! It also helped us get to know each other. I had a book of 201 Questions and each week I selected a few for Aaron to answer by email. Each time I got answers back from him, I was amazed at how similarly I would have answered. This led me to write in a paper letter, "I keep finding your thoughts in my head, your dreams in my heart." I didn't mean it to be romantic, but looking at it now, it seems it could have been lifted directly from a Hallmark card! He called me and told me how romantic it seemed to him and admonished me to be more careful. Poor guy, all alone in a foreign land, with no real friends to speak of. The Hotmail symbol probably seemed a little romantic to him!


Shortly after he came home, we drove to WA for a friend's wedding. Somehow, between the wedding and dinner out with some other WA friends, I said something that led Aaron to ask, "So, are you saying that if I asked you to marry me right now, you would say 'yes'?" Well, yes, that was true for me. He was startled and obviously not quite there yet. We spent the 10 hour car ride home talking about the difference between infatuation and real love and how you can tell the difference. I thought I had explained it quite well.


A few days later a Sarah McLachlan song came on the radio when we were driving together to the pizza place. Something in the lyrics prompted Aaron to groan. He admitted (upon questioning!) that he still didn't know how to tell infatuation from love. I wasn't the Queen of all things all the time and it made him worry a little bit about marrying me. So, I broke up with him.


No, really, I did! I replayed the conversations about infatuation over and over and over in my head and talked with the Director and his wife about it. They agreed that Aaron had a problem in this area and when I mentioned breaking up with him, they agreed that it would be better for him to figure it out without the added dimension of being in a dating relationship. So, the night after pizza, after we watched a movie together, I told him I thought it was incompatible to try and figure out what married love should be when you are seeking God as to whether you should be marrying a particular girl. It was getting the cart before the horse. It wasn't fair to me, and it really wasn't fair to him either. We both cried and tried to bridge the gap for an hour. He kept saying he didn't have "peace" about marrying me, but I believed it was because he had issues about committing to someone when some of the infatuation had worn off. He wouldn't let me totally break up with him, though. He talked me down to a two-week "separation." We would both pray and seek counsel and in two weeks see where we were at.


I walked out to my car, hardly able to see it through the tears, realized I couldn't drive home until I'd calmed down, threw my crossed arms over the steering wheel and let my head fall. My forehead thudded on the horn! HOOOOOONK!!!! Aaron came to the window, puzzled why I was in his driveway honking! It was so funny! I couldn't help laughing! Then I burst into wilder tears because I couldn't go in and share the laugh with my best friend. It was an awful feeling.


The next day, I cried a lot. In the afternoon, I called my mom and told her what had happened. She didn't understand our relationship from the beginning, and this break-up was far beyond her comprehension. She told me the only thing she could relate it to was when her sister had lost a baby. That startled me out of my grief because I realized that no one had died here. Nothing had died, in fact--our relationship and God-seeking had changed nature, but perhaps just temporarily. Perhaps, even, there was someone waiting and ready to marry me just around the corner. Aaron hadn't taken anything inappropriate from me and we didn't have a strong romantic/emotional bond because we'd been careful not to go there. My spirits lifted and by the time my sister called to console me an hour later, I was feeling good. I told her about the horn-honking and we laughed and laughed. She told me a funny thing that happened to her recently and we spent an hour laughing together. As soon as I hung up with her, the phone rang. I answered with the laughter still in my voice. There was a pause. "...Rachel?" It was a very sad and now confused Aaron calling. He wasn't supposed to be calling, but he said he wanted to make sure I got home okay the night before and was doing alright. Yep. Just fine here! Poor guy! He sure wasn't expecting that!


Over the next two days, I realized that while Aaron was indeed a good match for me, and that I would still say yes if he proposed (given that he proved he understood love and infatuation), I was ready to give him all the time and space he needed to figure it out. I was excited to see him at a Chi Alpha Bible study and ask his forgiveness for my impatience. As soon as I finished my little shpiel, he laughed. He told me that these few days apart had made him realize that he never wanted to spend another day apart from me and that he knew that meant he really loved me "warts and all" (my words, not his!). He wanted to start pre-engagement counseling right away (we did our pre-marital counseling ahead of the engagement because we felt that the proposal was a commitment not lightly made on both sides and didn't want to be blind-sided by something in counseling after the commitment--and appertaining plans--had been made).


That was in August. We did a little ring shopping and I found a style I liked. In October, we scored the highest in compatibility our pastor had ever seen, even among married couples he'd counselled! He gave us his blessing and Aaron went back to the jewelry store. He couldn't find the ring he remembered me liking. He looked in all the cases. He looked in all the catalogs. He described it to several salespeople. It had vanished and no one could help him find it. So, against his wishes, he brought me in. I couldn't find it either. A clever salesperson suggested we sit with a designer. He made a beautiful sketch! Everything I wanted! And, every time I drove by the store, I'd smile and think of all the little elves creating my very own engagement ring.

Aaron kept telling me that, even though we'd designed the ring, he wasn't quite ready to propose yet. The patience I'd found in the summer was all used up by then and I could think of no good reason why he was stalling. One night in December, I stopped by his place after he'd attended an informational meeting about a buying club. He told me how you could buy your way into the club and then save all kinds of money on all kinds of products. But, he thought you could do as well just shopping on the internet. "After all, you know how much I saved on that diamond!" Immediately, he looked panic-stricken and I lit up like the Times Square Christmas Tree!!! He'd bought the diamond for my ring! We had a date planned for that Saturday night and I KNEW he was going to propose then. He made up some lame cover-up, but it couldn't deter me from my conviction. When I got home that night, I burst into my house-mate's room and practically yelled, "I'm GETTING ENGAGED on Saturday!!!!!"

Aaron called the next afternoon: "How're you doing?"
"Oh, I'm doing GREAT!" (grinning)
"Why's that?"
"Oh, I dunno...." (grinning)
"Well, I hope you don't think we're getting engaged tomorrow night--cuz WE'RE NOT!!!"
"Oh, yeah, uhn huh." (grinning)

He came to get me at the appointed time for our date and I was smiling from ear to ear. He kept looking at me as he was driving. He took me back to his place where he'd kicked out all the roommates. There were little candles everywhere and the table was set for two. He'd made a lasagna from scratch, but we started with salads. He'd even gotten my favorite dessert from Macaroni Grille. When there was nothing left to eat, he said, "There's one more thing. I have to go upstairs to get it. But, it's just a card!" Hee hee! He's such an awful liar!

While I was reading the card which was signed "I love you, Aaron"--the first time he'd said "I love you" to me, he got down on one knee next to me. When I looked up from the card, he said, with tears in his eyes, "Rachel, I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?" and he put the ring in the palm of my hand. I giggled and nodded and giggled and hugged and giggled and nodded! Finally I exclaimed, "OH! I haven't even seen it!" And he said, "You haven't answered me either!"

We took a few pictures together (with the timer) and he said that was as much as he'd planned, what did I want to do now? I wanted to go to the mall where my friend was working and show her! He said, "No, really, what do you want to do?"
"That IS what I want to do!" And that's what we did!

We got married in a beautiful little chapel 7 months later and we still marvel how we're so incredibly each other's best match. Neither of us can imagine that there could be a better fit out there anywhere. We better die together because we're both convinced we'd never be able to top what we have with each other. He was sure right when he said, "Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?"

3 comments:

Tanya said...

I read every single word...how beautiful!!!!!

Missy said...

You guys are so perfect for each other :-) Makes me smile every time I think of you. Sending my love your way on V-Day.

Stefanie said...

Thanks for sharing Rachel! I loved reading this. God is so good to allow us the pleasure of friendship and love.

My Man and Me

My Man and Me
married 7/7/2001

Punk

Punk
ours through biology, born 7/25/2004, home 8/1/2004

Pea

Pea
ours through adoption from Liberia, West Africa, born 7/15/2005, home 10/25/2007

Pup

Pup
ours through domestic adoption, born 1/15/2011, home 2/10/2011, final 8/3/2011

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Round Two Timeline

  • 9/24/08 Home study update home visit for Ghana adoption
  • 10/15/08 Dossier sent to AOHG
  • 10/15/08 I600A application sent to USCIS
  • 10/30/08 First heard about possible domestic private adoption
  • 11/18/08 Last spoke with contact about possible domestic adoption; expected to hear back about meeting with birthmother
  • 12/3/08 Withdrew application from AOHG
  • 1/6/09 Found out another family had been chosen for possible domestic adoption
  • 1/21/09 USCIS fingerprinting appointment
  • 1/8/09 Received USCIS fingerprinting appointment notice
  • 4/11/09 Sent Pre-Application to Covenant Care Adoptions for Domestic Infant Adoption program
  • 6/8/09 Social worker visit to update home study from International to Domestic
  • 7/24/09 Received completed home study update
  • 8/25/09 Went "on the list" for birthfamilies to choose from
  • 4/28/10 Found out a birth mom had chosen us
  • 5/8/10 Met the birth mom
  • 5/11/10 Got the call that birth mom changed her mind
  • 5/19/10 Birth mom's scheduled c-section
  • 11/30/10 Visit from DSS sw about foster parenting
  • 11/30/10 Got the call that another birth mom had chosen us
  • 12/21/10 Met with the birth mom
  • 1/15/11 @1:42 PM BB was born!
  • 1/19/11 ICPC (interstate) paperwork sent to GA for approval
  • 1/31/11 ICPC Clearance Approved
  • 2/10/11 Placement Ceremony and Pup comes home!!!!
  • 8/3/11 It's Official! Pup's Adoption Decree was issued